A DIY Guide to Changing Your Name Legally

Thanks to Homeland Security, I’ve had a devil of a time lately trying to prove who I am. The reason? The name I have been known by for the past 35 years is not the name on my driver’s license.

Years ago, people could change their name through usage. This was done by simply introducing yourself by your new name and then using that new name for everything — social security cards, enrolling in college, employment, credit cards, mortgages, and so on. Over time, I built up a new identity using that name and never had a problem until recently, due to new federal regulations that has banks, doctors, and even the library asking for my driver’s license as proof of ID.

Last month, I had my name changed legally to clear up the confusion. Changing your name legally is a very simple process that will cost about $200. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Get proper forms from the courthouse. Even though there are DIY name change forms on the internet, these forms aren’t always up-to-date. The best resource is to visit the court assistance clerk at your local court house. The clerk will furnish you with the proper forms along with instructions for how to fill out the forms correctly. Since some of the forms have to be signed in front of a notary public, it may be more convenient to fill out the forms in her office.

2. Make copies and file with the County Clerk’s Office. After completing the petition for name change and other related documents, make copies as directed and bring them to the office of the County Clerk, which is also located in the county courthouse. Be prepared to pay for the filing fees in cash — my courthouse charges $88, yours will probably be higher.

Hint: If you are low on cash, many counties will waive the filing fees for low income families. The waiver can be obtained at the court assistance desk.

3. Publish the notice of hearing in the newspaper. One week after filing the petition for name change, the courthouse will mail you a “notice of hearing.” A copy of this notice must be hand delivered to your local newspaper and published in the legal section of the paper once a week for four consecutive weeks. The legal notice won’t be free — my newspaper charged me $120.

After publication, the newspaper will mail you a “proof of publication” notice which will have to be presented to the clerk-recorder’s office before the hearing.

4. Attend the hearing. I brought my original order plus some copies to have certified. Since my name change petition was straight forward and no one was objecting to the change, the judge signed the Order without testimony from me. After the hearing, the Court Clerk’s office certified my copies for $1 each.

Since all I had to change legally was my driver’s license, I only needed one certified copy. Most people will need many more copies. As well as changing your driver’s license, there’s social security cards, employment records and payroll, vehicle registration, school records, banks accounts, passport, birth certificates and other legal documents that also will require a certified copy of the Order before the name can be changed.

If you run out of certified copies, you can return to the county courthouse to pick up a few more. These will cost more money however, which is why it’s wise to figure up how many certified copies you’ll need before going in for your hearing.

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